Characteristics of Pediatric Mild Traumatic Brain Injury and Recovery in a Concussion Clinic Population

JAMA Netw Open. 2020 Nov 2;3(11):e2021463. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.21463.


Importance: Pediatric mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) and concussion are a public health challenge with up to 30% of patients experiencing prolonged recovery. Pediatric patients presenting to concussion clinics often have ongoing impairments and may be at increased risk for persistent symptoms. Understanding this population is critical for improved prognostic estimates and optimal treatment.

Objective: To describe pediatric patients presenting to concussion clinics and characterize factors associated with their recovery.

Design, setting, and participants: This prospective cohort study included patients enrolled at multicenter concussion specialty clinics from the Four Corners Youth Consortium from December 2017 to July 2019, with up to 12-month follow-up. Patients were eligible if they were aged 5 to 18.99 years with a diagnosis of mild TBI or concussion presenting to participating clinics within 8 weeks of injury. Patients were excluded if the patient or their parents were unable to read or sign the consent document, or if the patient had a Glasgow Coma Scale score less than 13 or a penetrating injury. Data were analyzed from February 2019 to April 2020.

Exposures: Diagnosis of mild TBI or concussion.

Main outcomes and measures: This study used National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke common data elements, including data on demographic characteristics, injury details, history, neurological and neuropsychological assessments, and treatment.

Results: A total of 600 patients were consecutively enrolled, among whom 324 (54.0%) were female and 435 (72.5%) were adolescents (ie, aged 13-18 years). A higher proportion of girls and women (248 patients [76.5%]) were adolescents compared with boys and men (187 patients [67.8%]) (P = .02), and girls and women reported significantly more preexisting anxiety compared with boys and men (80 patients [26.7%] vs 46 patients [18.7%]; P = .03). Significantly more adolescents reported preexisting migraines compared with preadolescents (82 patients [20.9%] vs 15 patients [10.9%]; P = .01). Girls and women recovered more slowly than boys and men (persistent symptoms after injury: week 4, 217 patients [81.6%] vs 156 patients [71.2%]; week 8, 146 patients [58.9%] vs 89 patients [44.3%]; week 12, 103 patients [42.6%] vs 58 patients [30.2%]; P = .01). Patients with history of migraine or anxiety or depression recovered more slowly than those without, regardless of sex.

Conclusions and relevance: These findings suggest that identification of subgroups of pediatric patients with mild TBI or concussion at risk for prolonged recovery could aid in better prognostic estimates and more targeted treatment interventions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Ambulatory Care Facilities / statistics & numerical data*
  • Brain Concussion / complications*
  • Brain Concussion / therapy*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Convalescence*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pediatrics / statistics & numerical data*
  • Prognosis
  • Prospective Studies
  • Recovery of Function*
  • Risk Assessment / statistics & numerical data*
  • Time Factors